The Sister starts of with Ginny waiting for the return of her sister, Vivian, to their childhood home. Vivian has been absent for over fifty years, and has out of the blue decided that it’s time to come home. Over the course of the weekend that this book takes place on, Ginny reflects on what has happened in their past that had driven Vivian to leave home in the first place, as well as what had torn her family apart. Ginny believes that everything begins to fall apart when they are young children and Vivian falls from the bell tower – thankfully Vivian survives, but due to the accident she will never be able to have children of her own. From that point on, things get slowly worse and worse until they escalate out of control. By the time Vivian has left home, their mom has become an alcoholic who beats Ginny on a regular basis, until a horrible accident results in their mother’s death.
We get a real sense of how different Ginny and Vivian view their childhood through this book – especially when it comes to the death of their mother. While Ginny has always believed that it has been an accident, Vivian is convinced that it is otherwise. At the same time, while Ginny believes that she is the one who has always been protecting Vivian from the truth about their mother, it turns out that Vivian is the one who has been protecting Ginny all the time.
By the end of the book, I really disliked Vivian. I thought she was cruel and manipulative. The way she used Ginny to get what she wanted at a few times throughout the book, really bothered me. Ginny, on the other hand, I felt for. What I really liked about this book was that Adams implied, but never outright stated, a lot of things about Ginny. There were things the secondary characters knew about Ginny that you could sense from comments they said, but Ginny never grasps the meaning of – Adams can’t actually say what is going on, as the whole book is narrated from Ginny’s point of view, but she does such a great job of conveying to the reader things that Ginny doesn’t completely comprehend.
I was disappointed by the atmosphere of the book. I had been expecting something a little bit more gothic in nature. A lot of reviews I’ve read, as well as a statement on the back of the book, had led me to believe that there would be a real gothic feeling to it. The house is a big old empty home (with almost no furniture in it) but it doesn’t have the atmosphere that I have associated with settings in typical gothic novels. The obsession with moths certain make things strange, but in no way makes it creepy or gothic. If I had not been expecting that atmosphere to permeate through the story, it would have been fabulous, but as I had been expecting it… it fell a little flat in that respect.
A short note on the moths – a lot of reviews that I’ve read about this book mention that Adams goes on for way too long about moths and the study of them, but I think it completely suited the narrative voice.
Definitely an enjoyable book. A little depressing by times, and not as gothic as I had been hoping, but it drew me in right from the beginning and kept my interest throughout the whole time I was reading it. I’ll definitely be on the lookout for future books by Poppy Adams.